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Friday, April 12, 2024

ISIS Jihadists Told to ‘Prioritize Self-Care’ and Mental Health While Using ‘Toxic’ Social Media, Learn Cybersecurity Tips

The "main reason" for "countless of our brothers" being arrested, article from ISIS Khorasan Province states, "is the unconsciousness about using Cyber systems."

Jihadists were advised in a new ISIS publication to keep abreast of cybersecurity trends and maintain strong cyber hygiene while being alert for “toxic content” that “can affect mental health” and well-being during prolonged social media usage.

ISIS Khorasan Province, which operates in central and southern Asia, made the comments in an article titled “Light of Darkness” within its 27th and latest issue of the English-language Voice of Khurasan magazine, which runs 66 pages.

“When the bird leaves, it leaves behind its feathers, the use of technology leaves its mark,” the unnamed author states. “Therefore, technology is a terrible name in the life of mujahidin. But don’t be afraid of technology… try to take its advantages.”

The “main reason” for “countless of our brothers” being arrested, the article adds, “is the unconsciousness about using Cyber systems.”

“Many of our brothers & sisters suggest me not to use internet or any social media account. They think that Cyber world is not right place for our work, and also dangerous for us. Tyrants will definitely get hold of us, if we use or share anything over the internet, and nothing of our personal data is secure over the internet because of Tawagheet [tyrant rulers] monitor everything. Also, on many occasions, offline activities are emphasized,” the author writes. “I also appreciate this kind of thoughts because definitely we need to be more concerned about our personal security.”

“… If it is unsafe for us then it is also unsafe for the enemies and the common people. Internet is for everyone; here all the things are open where anyone can learn anything and do anything, and also it is the fastest media for communication at this moment. If others can use this things against us then why we are not using this against them. Are we not capable for this?”

The article divides concerns and areas of focus into defining cybersecurity, cyber threats, whether social media should be trusted by extremists, whether personal data is secure online, and how to keep social media profiles and personal data more secure.

“It’s always important to stay updated on the latest Cybersecurity threats and trends,” the article stresses in bold. Specifically noted are ransomware, phishing and social engineering that “manipulate human psychology and exploit trust,” data breaches, advanced persistent threat actors, Internet of Things vulnerabilities, insider threats, supply chain attacks, zero-day exploits, cloud security risks, and threats to mobile devices.

“Trust in social media platforms is a complex topic that requires careful consideration,” the article continues, adding that jihadists should study the policies of social media platforms including “how they handle user data, privacy concerns, and content moderation,” verify that they’re not spreading mis-/disinformation, periodically update their privacy settings “to align with your preferences and comfort level,” be cautious with granting access to third-party apps, “use unique and complex passwords” and “enable two-factor authentication,” and “be mindful of the biases, opinions, and potential misinformation that can exist within user-generated content.”

“Consider the impact of social media on your emotional well-being,” jihadists are further told. “Excessive use of social media, comparison to others’ curated lives, and exposure to negative or toxic content can affect mental health. Be mindful of your social media usage and prioritize self-care.”

“By actively managing your social media experience and critically evaluating the content you encounter, you can navigate these platforms with greater confidence and minimize potential risks,” the article adds. “And hiding location while propagating dawah [conversion] over social media is another important factor. Forget not to use vpn, and also use make anonymous social media accounts for such activities.”

In addressing concerns about data and social-media account security, the ISIS article again emphasizes the use of “strong and unique passwords,” enabling two-factor authentication “especially for sensitive accounts like email, banking, and social media,” keeping software updated with patches installed, using encrypted WiFi — “avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive activities, as they may be insecure and prone to eavesdropping” — as well as message apps and emails, backing up data, and using reputable antivirus software.

“Educate yourself about common attack methods, such as phishing, malware, and social engineering, to recognize and avoid potential risks,” the article advises. “Regularly read Cybersecurity news and follow reputable sources for updates.”

Jihadists are further told to “avoid publicly sharing detailed information about your whereabouts or travel plans, as it can be exploited by criminals or law enforcing agencies might trace you.”

“Consider adjusting privacy settings on social media platforms to restrict access to this information,” the article adds.

The article concludes by noting that “mujahid in one corner of the world will communicate with a mujahid in another corner using Cyber systems” and promising a second part in their cyber series focused on “are we being monitored online” and how they can control or remove their digital footprints.

The author emphasized that he’s an expert in neither writing nor cybersecurity, and the cyber tips offered appear to have been curated from expert cybersecurity sources.

The terror group has previously offered targeted cyber information to followers. The Electronic Horizons Foundation, which launched in January 2016 as an IT help desk of sorts to walk ISIS supporters through how to encrypt their communications and otherwise avoid detection online while coordinating with and recruiting jihadists, previously warned followers through its weekly Tech News Bulletin of the potential to be traced through digital currency and launched their own cloud and chat platforms to help churn out new propaganda and allow followers of the terror group to better “close ranks” online.

In its May issue of Voice of Khurasan, ISIS-K derided Korean boy band BTS, British pop star Harry Styles, and Twitter/X owner Elon Musk as having “absolutely disgusting” influence and claimed that men dressing in drag is a sign that “everything is getting worse” in an article predicting that “the world is heading to the end times.”

In March, Voice of Khurasan declared that “media knights” for the terror group should redouble their efforts to do battle wielding social media, videos and online publications and could qualify for a reward “equal to that of shooting arrows and in some cases even more than that.”

Back in April 2022, Voice of Khurasan argued that concerted focus on “social media warfare” is critical to advance on the ideological battlefield but also in order to counter the pull of “enchanting” social media influencers.

“War comes in many form and targets different aspects of humans. A war can be fought militarily targeting physical self or it can be fought ideologically targeting intellect,” the magazine said in its third issue. “As much importance the physical clashes hold ideological confrontations also matter if not more. The physical battle can be lost even before it starts if people, in our case Muslims, are defeated or at the least trapped in the battle for the hearts and minds.”

author avatar
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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